Friday, January 23, 2009

Unconventonal Wisdom: Why does Captain Ricky bat 3rd?

In game three of the one day series, a lot of blame should fall on the shoulders of the rather pedestrian looking Australian middle order. An apparently less pressing question is who should open with David Warner.

Whilst Warner was blazing the ball to all corners of the SCG, his opening partner was grundling his way to 43 off 63 balls. More problematic was his slow start. Despite Warners hot start, Australia struggled to keep their run rate over 6.

Who should be Warners partner at the top of the order? In the 50 over game, by definition - there are a limited number of overs. Further, the best opportunity for genuine shot-makers to score is the first 15 overs. After this, the game degenerates into a singles fest. Recent one-day opening stands on average last about 8 overs. Say it takes the first drop 15 balls to get set, we are looking at the start of the 12th over to have the number three established. 

Who should bat at the top of the order? Well, the best batsman in the team. This maximises the potential number of balls that the best batsman can face. It maximises the number of balls that the best batsman can face with the fielding restrictions imposed. It is pretty obvious that Ricky Ponting is that player.

Why then, does Ricky Ponting bat 3rd? Say what you will about Ricky's captaincy, he is Australia's best batsman. The idea of letting openers take the shine off the new ball in test matches to "protect" the number three makes logical sense. However, the same logic cannot apply in the limited overs game. From the school, to warehouse cricket and beyond the idea of the importance of protecting the "first drop" is ingrained. However, a simple look at the nature of one-day cricket would suggest otherwise. I have been massively critical of some of captain Ricky's tactical decisions over the years, but he could go a long way to wiping the slate clean with a brave call here.


Captain Carnage said...

Marsh is the perfect opener to compliment Warner. You certainly don't want two loose cannons like Warner at the top of the order. Sure he might have grundled to 43 off 63, (which isn't really too bad) but he does have the ability to play more attacking cricket, see IPL. The openers scored more than enough runs at a good enough clip to set us up yesterday. So what was the problem? Our current middle order batsmen (excluding the injured M.Clarke) are very ordinary between overs 16 and 40. Not only do they struggle to work the singles, but they get out. And they get out through soft dismissals. They suck against canny spinners such as Vettori and Botha. We should have scored considerably more in all three matches, but the middle order dicked around too much in the middle overs. I actually think that Marsh and Warner could be our openers for a long time. I would say that your idea certainly has merit but that you might be being a bit harsh on the leading runscorer in the series, averaging 66.66 at a strike rate of a 76.04 which I would say gives the top order some much needed stability.

Professor Chaos said...

Actually not an indictment on Marsh - he's in good form and looks okay.

But the point is, the nature of the one-day game means that the bulk of the high run overs come at the start and finish of the innings. Making batting 3/4 less important in the scheme of things. I think you want guys like Marsh/Hussey/Hussey for the middle overs and stack the top with Ponting/Warner.

Captain Carnage said...

The idea is sound if you have the right guys; it worked for Sri Lanka with Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya for a couple of years. My issue with Warner/Ponting is that Warner is a loose unit and Ponting a nervous starter. If it works perfectly, that's great, then we're 0/120 after 15. What worries me is when we're 2 for not much after two overs.

The Hussey brothers...judging them by this series, not sure the middle overs is their go. The whole middle order has drastically underscored in the middle overs in the 3 matches so far and leaves me yearning for M. Clarke. Or even Boof Lehmann or even Bevvo. Guys who could work the singles with the odd boundary. As it is, the wily Botha is bringing the game back to SA every time during this period. Even part-timer Duminy has been effective.

Anyway, when all is said and done, all gripes are forgotten, then all I can say is this has been the most enjoyable summer of cricket for me in a long time. Every match keenly contested, plenty of good scraps, and as much as it annoys me, I've actually enjoyed watching the Saffers go about their work. But they'll really piss me off if they win on Australia Day. How fucking un-Australian would that be?!